Inez Clarke, the Haunted Statue of Graceland Cemetery
Take a walk through Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, and you may come across the statue of Inez Clarke. It might seem ordinary at first – a white stone monument under glass, situated among the other tombstones of the cemetery. But this statue has a strange story to tell, and some believe it may be haunted to this day!
Before we get to the paranormal side of things, let’s take a look at the statue itself, and the strange details surrounding its history.
It’s actually life-sized, and stands fairly tall, with the base and glass box included, and contains the likeness of Inez Clarke as she lived, a 6-year-old girl sitting in a small chair carved from stone but in the shape of wood. You can see how tall it actually is compared to onlookers in this photograph taken in May 2017.
Her own likeness, which is very detailed, wears a laced patterned dress, with a necklace and bow, and a small hat just upon her shoulder. Her name, Inez, is sculpted in large capitalized letters at the base of the statue. Near her name are also small sculpted flowers, as well as the name of the sculptor himself, Andrew Gagel, written as “A. Gagel, Sculptor, 1881.”
The light blue foundation of the statue reads:
J.N. & M.C. Clarke
Born Sep 20. 1873
Died August 1. 1880“
The statue’s larger stone base also contains a plaque that reads “John N. Clarke 1839-1910” and “Mary C. Clarke 1856 – 1912.”
Perhaps the most relevant detail here, however, is that she’s also holding a small closed umbrella.
Lightning Strikes Again
As with most things involving paranormal folklore, it’s difficult to know how much of a story is true, and how much has morphed into urban legend. We can only share the stories as we know them, and not necessarily as they actually happened.
Most retellings of Inez Clarke’s tale say she died after being hit by lightning. Some say she was out on a picnic one summer with her parents, when a violent thunderstorm began and she was struck. Others claim there was no picnic – she was simply outside and the weather took a turn for the worse. After her death, or so the story goes, her parents commissioned the creation of this statue, giving sculptor Andrew Gagel the task of recreating her likeness as a monument to their daughter. The glass covering the statue was added at a later date.
Strangest of all, in my opinion, is the mystery of who Inez Clarke really was. For a time, apparently, some believed the statue was more of a placeholder or artistic sample of some kind created by Andrew Gagel. Why? While this would have been peculiar, given that there are names and dates and a plaque on the statue’s base, there are no records of an Inez Clarke to be found anywhere.
Those who have looked have found that the name Inez Clarke doesn’t appear on any census forms, nor is she listed in Graceland Cemetery’s records at all. Instead, an individual named Amos Briggs is stated to be the one buried beneath the statue, alongside her infant brother Delbert Briggs.
So who was Inez Clarke?
The truth is that Inez may still have existed, although not as we know her from these stories. There’s reason to believe she may have actually been named Inez Briggs, and that her grandparents are the ones responsible for the statue’s creation. Inez Briggs, however, did not die from a lightning strike, but rather diphtheria, on August 1, 1880 – the very same date carved into the statue.
Find A Grave actually has a very detailed walkthrough of the intrigue and mystery surrounding the identity of Inez Clarke and her family. In short, Inez Clarke likely is Inez Briggs, daughter of Mary C. Clarke from an earlier marriage. As for the cemetery records, her name, Inez, may have been misinterpreted as Amos, as names were often misheard or written incorrectly on census forms and other documents quite often back then. Delbert Briggs, meanwhile, was likely her brother, buried next to her beneath the statue.
Most of this information was uncovered both in a Chicago Sun-Times article in 2007, published by historians Al Walavich and Helen Sclair, and a 2011 article in Chicago Genealogist. Adding evidence that Inez Clarke is Inez Briggs, who is Amos Briggs in the cemetery records, is that the grandparents of Inez Briggs, David and Jane Rothrock, are also buried near the statue. What’s more, Jane Rothrock’s husband from a previous marriage – and the father of Inez’s mother, Mary Clarke – was in fact a man named Amos who died in the Civil War.
While the identity of Inez Clarke is mostly settled, then, as far as we know, the origin of the lightning story is still up for debate. It’s entirely possible that the tale of Inez Clarke’s untimely end as the result of a lightning strike is a bit of paranormal urban legend inspired by the fact that her statue is holding an umbrella, but that’s just conjecture.
The above video provides another close-up of Inez Clarke’s statue, as well as a recounting of her story. You can see how the area is rather ordinary, and the statue is simply among the other stones, lined up in a row.
You may also notice the pennies left at the base of the statue, just under her name. This, you may or may not know, is often a form of remembrance or paying respect, or even as a means of bringing good luck to the deceased.
Rumors Of Paranormal Activity In Graceland Cemetery
Despite all of that, the story of Inez Clarke also includes reports of ghostly sightings and other phenomena. One particularly outlandish claim is that her likeness will disappear during thunderstorms, perhaps to get away from potential lightning, as though her statue gains a life of its own and looks for cover.
This is how the most famous story of Inez Clarke’s paranormal nature is often told: One night, a watchman was patrolling the cemetery during a thunderstorm, when he came upon Inez’s statue and noticed that the glass was empty. He ran off, but by morning, Inez Clarke’s likeness was back under the glass box, sitting in her sculpted chair as usual.
That may be hard to believe, but other tales tell of witnesses seeing the spirit of a young girl running through the cemetery, or children claiming to hear her voice or even playing with her, despite their parents not being able to see anything. Others have claimed to see a ghostly girl sitting under a nearby tree, reading a book, or even to have witnessed the statue crying. While Inez Clarke likely did not die from a lightning strike, it’s interesting that these tales persist, and the ghost stories surrounding her statue include those elements.
Graceland Cemetery, built in 1860, also plays host to walkthroughs and cemetery tours, as well as ghost hunts during the Halloween season, though the staff itself doesn’t host them. One of the images I linked to above is from a set taken during one such tour. The cemetery is fairly large, consisting of 121 acres, and is located just north of Wrigley Field. It’s also home to a number of other haunted sites, but perhaps we’ll get to those later.
I find this story fascinating, not just because it’s the compelling tale of a ghostly statue at a haunted cemetery – the kind of story you’d find in Haunted Heartland, one of my favorite books on ghosts – but the fact that even disregarding the paranormal aspects, the statue itself and its origin is a story with twists and turns all on its own.
I also find genealogy pretty fascinating. There’s a bit of fun in trying to hunt down old forms, and figure out who was who, when and where. The idea that the life of an otherwise ordinary girl would become the focus of folklore, and shift and change to include the story about lightning, just shows how legends become legends. These types of stories are multifaceted, and those are my favorite kind!
Updated May 9, 2023